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Republican lawmakers reintroduce bill to ban TikTok on federal devices

Republican lawmakers reintroduce bill to ban TikTok on federal devices
© Greg Nash

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts Pollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee Why isn't Washington defending American companies from foreign assaults? MORE (R-Mo.) led a group of Senate Republicans on Thursday in reintroducing legislation to ban the use of social media app TikTok on federal government devices, citing potential national security concerns. 

The No TikTok on Government Devices Act would ban all federal employees from using the popular app on government devices. The legislation was previously introduced in 2020, and was unanimously passed by the Senate in August, but the bill never received a vote in the House.  

“TikTok is a Trojan horse for the Chinese Communist Party that has no place on government devices—or any American devices, for that matter,” Hawley said in a statement Thursday. “My bill is a straightforward plan to protect American government data from a hostile foreign power, which, less than a year ago, passed the Senate unanimously.” 

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“TikTok has repeatedly proven itself to be a malicious actor but Joe Biden and Big Tech refuse to take the threat of Chinese espionage seriously. It’s time for Congress to act,” he added. 

Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  Crist launches bid for Florida governor, seeking to recapture his old job MORE (R-Fla.), Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Opposition to refugees echoes one of America's most shameful moments White House defends CDC outreach to teachers union MORE (R-Ark.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) are co-sponsors of the legislation.  

The bill was also reintroduced in the House by Rep. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHillicon Valley: Trump's Facebook ban to stay in place, board rules | Facebook board's Trump decision pleases no one | Republicans float support for antitrust reform Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Facebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one MORE (R-Colo.), who said in a separate statement that the legislation “is in the best interest of our national security.”

“Chinese-owned apps are required to report user data to the Chinese Communist Party, that is why we cannot trust TikTok with the sensitive data that exists on U.S. government devices,” Buck said. "It is well past time to acknowledge the serious cybersecurity threat that TikTok poses and enact a federal government-wide ban on the Chinese app.”

While the federal government as a whole has not taken the step to ban TikTok, agencies including the Defense and Homeland Security departments, along with the Transportation Security Administration, have already banned employees from using the app on their federal devices. 

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TikTok came under close scrutiny during the Trump administration, with former President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE issuing an executive order last year requiring Chinese company ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to sell the app or have it banned from use in the United States. 

The effort to ban TikTok stalled out in the last months of the Trump administration following a contentious election, with the deadline for sale of TikTok passing with no action taken, leaving the Biden administration to set its own rules on the app.  

TikTok has repeatedly pushed back against concerns that it poses a threat due to ByteDance’s alleged connections to the Chinese government and data security concerns, with the company taking steps to increase its security and the privacy of data.  

Commerce Secretary Gina RaimondoGina RaimondoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water | Watchdog questions adequacy of EPA standards for carcinogenic chemical emissions | Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Florida's restrictive voting bill signed into law Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water MORE said last week that Jake SullivanJake SullivanWill Biden provide strategic clarity or further ambiguity on Taiwan? State Department denies reports of prisoner swap with Iran North Korean official says Biden's comments on country are 'hostile policy' MORE, President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won't run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE’s national security adviser, was leading a review to determine how the Biden administration would approach TikTok and other Chinese tech companies.

While Raimondo did not directly comment on if the administration would force ByteDance to sell TikTok, she stressed that “what we do on offense is more important than what we do on defense” and the need to “level the playing field” with China.